Two New Favorites

As many of you know, I used to live in the Bay Area, which enabled me to visit Napa and Sonoma rather easily. Now, even though I live on the East Coast, I still get out there at least a couple of times a year since my wife’s parents live in the East Bay.

So this, coupled with the writing of this blog, makes me some sort of “expert” in the eyes of some (I refuse to comment on the relative intelligence of those who see me thusly). As a result, just about any time someone I know goes to Wine Country, they ask me for advice as to where to go when out there. At first it would happen every now and again, but as this blog gets more a few more eyeballs on it, the number of such inquiries increases steadily. I do not mind such requests, but they do take a bit of time to address.

If I were smart (big ”if”), I would have a list of wineries that I “endorse” and adapt it slightly for each request. I am not sure that it would save me all that much time, but seeing that I have never even attempted such an approach, I figure I should not knock it before I had at least tried it. 

To that end, I have decided to adopt yet another new resolution of sorts, and keep a more current list of wineries to visit up there in the menu at the top of the page (under “Wineries”—pretty clever title, I know).

At least that is my plan.

My first act regarding this new resolution, is to update the Napa and Sonoma pages with two new favorites, Cornerstone and J Vineyards. Even though both wineries have been around for a while, it was not until I started blogging (and they sent me a few samples, to be perfectly honest), that I really took notice.

Cornerstone, located in Yountville (not far from any of the Thomas Keller trio of restaurants there), has an impressive line-up of wines, but I think they particularly excel in their Bordeaux varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Sauvignon Blanc. They recently sent me a bottle of each of the first two, from their Stepping Stone line:

11_Cab22012 Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Franc Stepping Stone (Black Label): Retail $45. Deep violet with a nose of blackberries and violets, but very tight initially. After some time, though, the wine brightened up and showed impressive depth and chalky tannins. This is just a baby and will need some time in the cellar—it clearly needs a year or two, but could benefit from up to 5-8 years. Now? Very Good to Outstanding, 89-91 Points. In a couple of years, easily in the 91-94 Range.

11_Cab_Franc_small32012 Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Stepping Stone (Black Label): Retail $45. This one was impressive right out of the bottle–effusive raspberry and cassis and a hint of strawberry jam. On the palate, I immediately knew this was something special, but also knew it will only get better. This is one of the reasons I really love Cornerstone–the wines tend to show well early, but also will improve with more time in the bottle. This one is oh-so-good right now with fruit and depth, but also plenty of tannins on the backend. This is a wine to buy by the case–drink some now and celebrate the fruit, and save the other half to drink over the next decade at least and revel in the complexity. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.

J Vineyards RRV Chardonnay No Date NEW - Bottle ImageThe second winery that I am adding to the list is J Vineyards in Healdsburg (Sonoma County). I have actually never visited the winery (even though I have ridden a bike past it several times), but I hope to rectify that in just a few short weeks. Primarily known for their sparkling wines, J also produces a number of still single varietal wines, and they recently sent me a couple:

2013 J Vineyards Estate Grown Russian River Chardonnay: Retail $28. The nose is a bit muted but some lemon, oak, and chalk come through. On the palate, more of a big style Chard with prominent oak and well-balanced acidity. This wine starts off a bit pushy, but eventually mellows quite a bit and by the end of the bottle, I was looking for more. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.RRVPinotNoirProduct220x680

2013 J Vineyards Estate Grown Russian River Valley Pinot Noir: Retail $40. I have had some experience with J Vineyards sparkling wines, but not nearly as much with the still wines. After a bit of time in the glass, this comes to life with Bing cherry and a hint of mint. On the palate, really nice fruit and balanced acidity. This is one of the best Pinots I have had thus far this year. Outstanding. I can’t wait to visit the winery this Spring…. 91-93 Points.

Be sure to check out the “Wineries” section in the menu and let me know what you think!



About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
This entry was posted in Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Wine. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Two New Favorites

  1. I agree with you re: Cornerstone Cab Franc. Good now; great later! I think you liked the Black Label Cab Sauv a bit more than I did. I thought it was highly enjoyable but not 92-94 pts good; esp compared to the white label Cabs. I have never had J Vineyards. I appreciate your notes. Cheers!


    • Thanks for the feedback–I think the Cab Franc is going to improve for a while. As for the Cab Sauv, I liked it a lot initially, but over the course of the night, it got better and better. Really good. Try some of J–and not just the bubbles….

      Liked by 1 person

  2. dwdirwin says:

    I’ve been a big fan of J sparkling for awhile- even while working at Mumm- oh the horror!


  3. A couple of great suggestions. In terms of J, in addition to their Chard, and Pinot, I’m very fond of their Pinot Gris. I dig the new “winery” section (btw…noticed Syrah was spelled “Cyrah”)…


  4. I’ve driven by Cornerstone about 250 times on the way to/from San Francisco from Napa. Have never stopped until I found this older post and thought “ah, what the hell.” Went there on Monday and was surprised how much I liked the wines! The reds, anyway. We just posted about another favorite Sonoma winery, Marimar Estate – check it out.

    Liked by 1 person

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